I was writing a column on Southwest State basketball coach Brad Bigler for Sunday's Star Tribune. I talked to Brad before the Mustangs game against Concordia in St. Paul on Friday night..
The tipoff was scheduled for 8 p.m. and the plan was to stay for the game. There was a feeling after the interview that I should take a shot at trying to talk to Tim Miles, Bigler's former coach when Brad was a point guard at Southwest State.
This was probaby a long shot, since Miles is now Nebraska's coach and the Huskers were scheduled to tipoff at 1 p.m. Saturday in a postponed game vs. Iowa in Lincoln.
I had a couple of things going for me: Miles' strong appreciation for Bigler, and the knowledge that Miles _ formerly of Mayville [N.D.] State, Southwest State and North Dakota State in this area _ is as good of a guy as you're going to meet in the big-time coaching fraternity.
I went home, sent an e-mail to Shamus McKnight, Nebraska's SID for basketball, explaining that I could use a couple of quotes from Miles on Bigler ... and explaining that I understood this might not be possible because of the game-day situation.
McKnight made me aware of a piece written in December in the student newspaper, the Daily Nebraskan, on Miles that went into detail on his relationship with Bigler. The SID also said: "I know how much Brad Bigler means to him. I might be able to get the coach to call you after the game.''
The story of Bigler, his wife Heather and two surviving children has been told nationally and regionally. In July 2011, Bigler's mother drowned in a kayaking accident, with Brad and three companions making futile attemps to save her. On July 28, 2012, Brad and Heather's baby, 5-month-old Drake, was killed in a vehicle accident caused by a drunk driver.
Brad wound up hospitalized in Sioux Falls with numerous broken bones and other injuries. The Daily Nebraskan story told of Miles and his family completing the move from Fort Collins [Colorado State] at the end of July, then Tim getting in his car and driving 235 miles to visit Bigler in the hospital.
I wrote the column early on Saturday morning. It wasn't intended to be a retelling of the Biglers' dual tragedies _ more a column on how the Mustangs and their coach were doing near the end of this season.
And then the cell phone rang at 4:30 p.m. and it was Tim Miles, a couple of hours after Nebraska's 64-60 upset of Iowa. He gave me what I considered to be excellent insights to Brad Bigler, and his respect for the young coach, and a new column was written ... sending the first version to what we used to call the circular file.
We also talked about Nebraska basketball. I said, "I have to get to Lincoln and see this practice facility everyone is talking about.''
Miles said: "Wait a year. Wait until we get the new arena. After that's done, our facilities are going to be unbelievable ... as good as anywhere in the country.''
To which I replied: "You better watch out. Those people might get as interested in your team as they are in the indentity of the third-team left guard in spring practice.''
Miles: "I wouldn't go that far, but that's fine with me. That fantastic interest in football pays a lot of bills around here.''
Miles is playing with eight scholarship players in his first season at Nebraska _ and one of those eight is a tall, lanky youngster who is a project spending his time on the bench.
"We saved two scholarships, and we're redshirting three kids, and we signed three good perimeter players in the fall,'' Miles said. "This league is brutal, and we're just OK. It's going to take a while, but I know this: There's never been a better time to be a Nebraska basketball coach.''